London must adapt to change

The University of Reading’s Meteorology Department is leading a major new project to help understand how London’s existing and new buildings directly affect, and need to adapt to, climate change.
One of the University’s urban meteorologists has been awarded a £1 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Challenging Engineering Programme and will be monitoring and simulating the London climate over the course of the next five years.
The funding will create the Advanced Climate Technology Urban Atmospheric Laboratory (ACTUAL), which will investigate the impact that buildings themselves have on London’s changing climate. Results will be integrated directly into engineering and policy areas which impact on urban infrastructure.
Dr. Janet Barlow, the ACTUAL project leader from the University of Reading, said: “Most of the world’s population lives in cities, which are already responsible for 80% of the world’s carbon emissions. London’s energy consumption soared during the 2003 heat wave as offices and public buildings switched on air conditioning systems across the city. Such extreme temperatures are predicted to be a regular occurrence by the 2050s, at which point 70% of our current buildings will still be around.  They are not designed to function in what will be the equivalent of the current-day Mediterranean climate.”
The initial five year project will use buildings such as the BT Tower to investigate sustainable adaptation of buildings to a warmer London climate. The research will focus on three areas: improving urban climate simulation, assessing the effect of building layout on city ventilation and developing tools to optimise urban renewable energy generation.
One of the projected outcomes is a better understanding of climate-sensitive design for tall buildings, with implications for London’s future skyline. Dr Barlow continued: “Our ageing urban infrastructure needs to adapt to withstand the impact of our changing climate, rather than worsening the climate by increasing energy use and carbon emissions. The interaction between climate and buildings is not generally recognised by engineers and planners who are working to transform urban infrastructure, partly because the science on which design standards are based does not incorporate understanding of urban climate. Adaptation of existing and new buildings to sustainably withstand warmer futures needs both legislation and standards – and we will be working to provide the evidence that policy requires.”

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